Dec. 5, 2016 | The UAMS Translational Research Institute honored UAMS’ many Arkansas community partners Nov. 18 with its fourth annual Community Partner Celebration.
During the event at the Centre at University Park in Little Rock, Naomi Cottoms, executive director of Tri County Rural Health Network (Tri County), accepted the first Chancellor’s Community Research Partner Award on behalf of her organization.
Tri County has been a partner of the UAMS Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health since 2001. That year the college began a long-term partnership with Tri County, which established the Community Connector Program, and they have jointly presented and published findings on the cost savings generated by this community health worker program.
UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D., the keynote speaker, applauded the work of the community partners. He also focused on the important changes in the way research is conducted with communities typically underrepresented in research.
When deciding what research is going to be conducted, he said, community partners must be involved. Not only should they be involved in deciding whether the research makes a difference in people’s lives, they should help decide whether it makes a difference in their lives according to what matters to the community.
“In picking research questions, we’ve typically begun by considering the importance of the science, and what we learned is that may not really be what matters to the people whose interests we’re here to serve,” Rahn said.
He said he hopes UAMS’ relationships with communities have matured to where they feel empowered to tell researchers the problems they want to tackle.
“I thank you for being engaged with us,” he said. “I really want to challenge all of us to get this to the level where you are not just helping us with projects we decided to do, but that you’re actually bringing questions to the table that you need answers to because it’s your community, it’s your lives, and then we respond to that.”
Rahn selected Tri County for the Chancellor’s Community Research Partner Award after the list of nominees was narrowed to two by reviewers at universities outside Arkansas.
Tri County has served as the formal community partner on a grant from the National Institutes of Health National Institute for Minority Health and Health Disparities to study the role of community health workers in engaging minority community members and organizations in research.
Mary Olson, D.Min., of Tri County served as the community co-investigator and Cottoms served as chair of the community advisory board. Tri County was also the community partner on a Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award, and Cottoms has chaired the TRI Community Advisory Board for the past three years.
The College of Public Health is collaborating on a research project with Tri County called Patients Advancing Their Health (PATH) in the Delta, which involves integrating Community Health Workers into primary care practices to help them serve the needs of their most costly and medically complex patients.
“These projects represent just some of the partnerships between Tri County and the college, and they demonstrate the critical role this organization has played at UAMS,” said Kate Stewart, M.D., M.P.H., who leads the Translational Research Institute’s Community Engagement program. “They have demonstrated the value of community engagement for students who visit the Delta to learn about their work, for researchers who partner with them in the community, and for the members of the community who have benefited from their willingness to work with UAMS.”
Five community groups were recognized as Outstanding Community Partners. They are:
- Health Impact Assessment Coalition. This coalition is examining how Arkansas’ landlord-tenant laws and the state’s lack of an implied warranty of habitability affects health through the availability of safe, affordable and healthy housing in central Little Rock. The assessment, funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, focuses on how formerly incarcerated people are impacted by these policies. Several UAMS staff are members of the Coalition Steering Committee.
- Immerse Arkansas. This organization prepares former foster youth for adulthood. Working with UAMS, students interviewed youth who received services from Immerse Arkansas, then wrote narratives for inclusion in an awareness campaign.
- Jefferson County Emotional Wellness Taskforce. This taskforce has worked with several UAMS researchers to develop grants that focus on improving mental health outcomes among community members and improving mental health literacy within rural African-American communities. The taskforce has also collaborated with UAMS researchers to develop grants that focus on improving mental health outcomes of those who are incarcerated.
- Jericho Way. A day resource center for the homeless in Little Rock, Jericho Way has partnered with the Emergency Department Community Health Worker program at UAMS. In this program, patients in the Emergency Department receive one-on-one services from a community health worker who works with them to manage their health and social needs.
- Transgender Equality Network. This network serves and advocates for the transgender community and has worked to educate the public about transgender issues. It has partnered with the College of Public Health and the Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition on a national Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute community engagement award called Transform Health Arkansas.
Other nominees for the Chancellor’s Community Research Partner Award are:
Arkansas Community Organizations. This community-based membership organization does community organizing around issues that are important to its members, mostly low-to-moderate income communities in Central Arkansas and Jefferson County. UAMS College of Public Health faculty, staff and students have partnered with Arkansas Community Organizations in completing service learning community research projects for the previous five years through a masters- and doctoral- level course on racial and ethnic health disparities.
Arkansas Prevention Research Center Community Advisory Board. The “Dos and Don’ts of Community Engagement” workshop for researchers was developed and implemented by the Arkansas Prevention Research Center’s Community Advisory Board in partnership with faculty and staff from the College of Public Health. The early results of the workshop show that it can help build and sustain community-academic partnerships.
Arkansas Transgender Equality Coalition (ArTEC). This state-wide organization works to advance equality, justice and inclusivity for transgender Arkansans. The College of Public Health is partnering with ArTEC on a national Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute community engagement award called Transform Health Arkansas. ArTEC is leading this project to engage transgender Arkansans in identifying their most pressing health and health care issues they want to see studied.
Shiloh Baptist Church. The Rev. Johnny Smith and Shiloh Baptist Church in Pine Bluff have partnered with researchers at the UAMS colleges of Medicine and Public Health for more than six years. Smith has served as a community principal investigator on several projects in the Delta.